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Putting the pieces together… Paprec's Stéphane Névé explains…

by Transat Paprec 29 Apr 09:15 BST 30 April 2023
Stéphane Névé - Transat Paprec © Alexis Courcoux

Stéphane Névé is well known on the international grand prix sailing scene. He has always been skipper of the TP52 Paprec indeed his experience with their sailing team dates back more than 20 years.

Now he has responsibility for Paprec's sailing projects. Their objective is to help provide a pathway from dinghy sailing to the Vendée Globe where they are co-partners with Arkea in the recently launched IMOCA skipper by Yoann Richomme. He explains their overarching philosophy and why they are so firmly behind the Figaro class and driving the Transat Paprec.

What was your goal in terms of entries on this first year?

"Our target was between ten and 15 boats in the first year and so, yes, 11 boats is near the minimum of what we were hoping for but we lost one boat (to crew injury), so we would have been in the middle of that target."

What is the Paprec outlook on sailing?

"The idea for Paprec is to promote sailing from dinghy racing to the Vendée Globe. We have a partnership with Le Havre with the club there where we bought some Birdyfish small foiling boats there, so we start there and then the Figaro is in between and the TP52 and we have the IMOCA. The idea is to have something of a pathway everywhere from dinghy sailing to the Vendée Globe which is the Everest of sailing."

Part of this is about promoting the Figaro class, increasing participation and pushing up the overall level?

"This was an opportunity for us as we see the Figaro is a high level class but it is not at the level it should be right now as we see classes like the Mini and Class 40 races which are fully subscribed like the Vendée Globe and the Figaro BENETEAU there are not so many boats, in the past there were more boats and so our idea is to really promote the class and the races, and to give sailors the chance to compete now, not have to wait a long time like with the Mini to do the Transat. The idea is to be able to put the spotlight back on the Figaro like it was in the days when there was Alain Gautier, Michel Desjoyeaux, Jérémie Beyou, Yann Eliès, Armel Le Cléac'h and the class was very popular. The problem with the Figaro is it looks too much like a high level. Many sailors think it is too difficult and go to the Mini, maybe, where they can go to a sponsor and say performance is down to the boat as well. But this is one design, the boats are good and there are many races. But it looks difficult to some guys so we want to promote it in France and also Internationally."

If it is only France it is only French

You see this as being a chance to open up Figaro racing to more sponsors too, a Transatlantic race is appealing and easily understood?

"Many partners are maybe not so informed about sailing and don't realise that Figaro is not easy to sail but they understand how hard it is to race across the Atlantic on the Figaro. They think it is harder to race across the Atlantic on the Figaro BENETEAU than to do La Solitaire du Figaro which is not the case. We need to promote this Transat Paprec as well because it will become a good event for sponsors and make it easier and better to get sponsors. Many sponsors look at the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Route du Rhum but think the Figaro is just solo sailing along the coast, they maybe don't understand that they go from Saint Nazaire to Concarneau but in between they go round the Fastnet, to Spain or England, so we try to change the image of the Figaro. And that, also, is the reason we want La Solitaire du Figaro to go to Spain or Ireland or the UK which it is doing because we asked for it. If it is only France it is only French."

And your strategy is very much about investing long term?

"We are looking to do some good for sailing and for the class. And we only work and look long term. With Jean Pierre Dick for example it was not only one Vendée Globe and now with our partnership with Arkea the IMOCA it is always for a long term, this will be our second Vendée Globe with Arkea and the plan is to do one more at least. It is the same with the TP52 we have done it for many years on the 52 Super Series."

But a key appeal here is developing opportunities for mixed doubles, for more women to be able to race across the Atlantic?

"It is part of the philosophy of our company, we have many, many women who are directors of our plants all over France and we have many female directors on the board, and we have more than 50 different nationalities who work for us in the company, it has always been open and inclusive."

Some skippers say they are concerned about the costs, can the costs come down?

"I don't think the costs are prohibitive. I have been talking to sailors, some sailors cannot find the budget, yes. For example to do the full Figaro season including the Transat Paprec costs maybe €250,000 to do all he events, that includes shipping the boat back from Saint Barths - that is something we will work on the future. But also some sponsors out there have said they are prepared to put in two or two and a half times as much to do a Class 40. They think it is more effective to do Class40 and so that is what we have to work on with the class is to make the Figaro more attractive to sponsors."

And how long is your initial commitment?

"We are committed until 2027 on this race."

And you want to open up the racing to get more entries from outside of France?

"Yes, for sure for the next Transat Paprec we want to have more international entries. There are now a good fleet racing in Italy doublehanded and so we have hopes there and so we should push that fleet to come and join the Atlantic. But we have time, we have two more races."

What would be your target for 2025?

"Between 15 and 20 boats next time and 25 in 2027, that is the target. The cost to charter a boat to do this race and some training in January, do the Transat Paprec and ship your boat back is probably €60 to €80k."

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